Scott Haynes, College Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The 2005 college football season is beginning its stretch run and several players have made their presence felt in hopes of taking home the most coveted piece of hardware in the sport (next to the national title trophy). With that in mind, here are the top five candidates for this year's Heisman Trophy, along with a few dark horses for good measure.
1. REGGIE BUSH - Could the Heisman Trophy actually go to another Trojan this year? Well, if you have been paying attention, the answer is an emphatic, yes. Bush has clearly distinguished himself as the most dangerous player in the sport. He is averaging 8.6 yards per carry, is a serious threat coming out of the backfield and just ask the Washington Huskies about his ability to return punts. He put himself at the head of the list with his three touchdown performance in South Bend a couple of weeks ago and may not relinquish the spot.
2. MATT LEINART - Last season's winner is having another banner year, but it may not be enough to overcome teammate Reggie Bush this time around. Leinart returned for his senior year for a shot at another national title and perhaps Heisman and his numbers are certainly worthy of it. He has completed almost 65 percent of his passes, for 2,148 yards and 16 TDs, with just five picks. His leadership qualities are unmatched and what he did at the end of the Notre Dame game is just another defining moment in a stellar career.
Reggie Bush has clearly distinguished himself as the most dangerous player in the sport.
3. VINCE YOUNG - If any player in the country is playing as well as the two Trojans already mentioned, it is this Texas Longhorn. Young has brought Texas from a solid team to a monster program in 2005. The BCS has placed Texas as the top team in the land recently and Young is the main reason why. The versatile signal-caller is second on the team in rushing (458 yards) with six TDs, while completing over 65 percent of his passes, for 1,596 yards and 14 TDs. What's more important is the way he is beginning to command this team down the stretch. His highlight game was a couple of weeks ago, when he destroyed Colorado all by himself, with three rushing scores, while completing 25-of-29 passes, for 336 yards and another two TDs.
4. BRADY QUINN - No player in the country has benefited more from his coach than Quinn. Charlie Weis' offensive expertise has transformed Quinn from a solid field-general to one of the nation's top gunslingers in just one season in South Bend. All he's done is complete 65.8 percent of his passes, for 2,352 yards, with 20 TDs and just four interceptions. He is averaging 336 yards passing in 2005, compared to just 215.5 in 2004 and will probably surpass his passing yardage from last year with his next outing. Quinn is getting better as the season wears on as well, throwing for 467 yards and a school-record six TDs last time out.
5. DEANGELO WILLIAMS - Williams' only flaw is playing in Conference USA, already giving him a handicap in terms of winning the Heisman. Still, his numbers are overwhelming. This Memphis Tiger is netting 6.7 yards per carry and currently leads the nation in rushing at 187 yards per game. The 5-10, 217-pound senior has already posted four 200+ yard efforts this year. In Memphis' recent win over East Carolina, Williams toted the rock a career-high 39 times, for 226 yards and two TDs. Definitely, Heisman-like numbers.
BEST OF THE REST:
LAURENCE MARONEY - One of the nation's premier backs, he is averaging 161.9 yards per game on the ground (third in the nation) for Minnesota. A truly gifted runner, but his team's lack of wins in the Big Ten has hurt his stock.
JEROME HARRISON - A relative unknown out in the Pacific Northwest, Harrison is second in the nation in rushing. This Washington State Cougar is averaging a gaudy 166.1 yards per game and has scored 11 TDs. However, winning is important to the Heisman voters and WSU is simply not getting it done.
BRIAN CALHOUN - Yet another great back, who has really taken over as the leader for Wisconsin. He has more carries (219) than any of the Top-50 rushers in the country and has made the most of them, averaging 127.6 yards per game, with 14 TDs.
CODY HODGES - A product of the system for sure, but there is still no denying Hodges' numbers this year at Texas Tech. Mike Leach has yet another gunslinger to add to the growing list, as Hodges has completed over 70 percent of his passes this season, for 2,830 yards, with 24 TDs and just six interceptions.
DREW STANTON - It is an offensive juggernaut in East Lansing this year and Michigan State QB Drew Stanton is the reason why. He leads an offense that is netting 538.3 yards a game and has really stepped up as one of the top signal-callers in the country. Stanton has completed 68.4 percent of his passes, for 2,040 yards and 16 TDs thus far.
D.J. SHOCKLEY - Shockley has not put up awe-inspiring numbers, but he is on an undefeated team (at this time) and is the undeniable leader on offense. The Georgia QB has completed 58 percent of his passes this year, for 1,538 yards and 12 TDs, while showing the ability to run as well (third on the team in rushing yards and three TDs).